To say there has been (and continues to be) volatility around the 2020 movie release calendar is an understatement. As social distancing becomes the order of the day during the coronavirus pandemic, a number of films scheduled for March, April, May, June, and later have been delayed to dates unseen (or into 2021). Many others, meanwhile, have been moved to VOD as our definition of what a “new release is” changes.
Be that as it may, February was an unusually strong beginning to the cinematic year, and assuming the rest of the calendar holds, there is plenty still to look forward to–including Mulan and A Quiet Place Part II if those manage to stay in 2020. So wash your hands for at least 20 seconds and then join us in looking at the best movies that have come out so far this year, and what is still coming.
Birds of Prey
“If Wonder Woman was a perfect bit of wish fulfillment for young girls who are, like Diana, finding their way in the world, Birds of Prey is the movie for adults of any gender who find themselves more flawed, jaded, or just down on their luck but still deserving of a second chance and a redemptive arc. After Suicide Squad, Harley surely deserved a second chance away from all that toxic masculinity, and what a truly fantabulous emancipation it is.”
The Lodge is a somber horror movie from the directors of Goodnight Mommy, and it deserves more attention than it has so far earned. It’s a grim psychodrama and performance showcase for Riley Keough. In the film, she plays Grace, the new girlfriend of a father (Richard Armitage) who was already moving on even before his wife committed suicide. His children, including It’s Jaeden Martell, won’t let him or Grace forget that. And when she and the kids go to a cabin in the wilderness early for holiday break, weird things begin to happen.
Is it a ghost of the kids’ mother? Is it the children out to punish their spiteful would be stepmom? Or is it Grace herself, a woman who’s haunted by a troubling spooky past? All are possibilities in this heightened fever dream when the three become trapped in the house by a snowstorm without power or food.
“My debutante ball of how to perform in an accent was The Witch,” Anya Taylor-Joy reflects, “and when you think about the way that those sentences were crafted, you’re painting pictures. I’ve never understood why people find it difficult to speak in that kind of language, because you are literally storytelling with choice words. With Jane Austen, it’s fascinating because they couldn’t really hit somebody over the head with language if they were angry. They could just say it with the word choice that they had, and I just luxuriated in it.”
The Invisible Man
“If you thought the Universal Monsters were finished after the “Dark Universe” roundly failed, look again. Under the eye of low-budget movie producer Jason Blum and his frequent collaborator director Leigh Whannell, The Invisible Man has been completely reinvented in a way that feels fresh, contemporary, relevant and at times very scary. In this context, Elisabeth Moss’ Cecilia Kass is the lone protagonist, who has seemingly escaped her abusive boyfriend Adrian Griffin (Oliver Jackson-Cohen). He even killed himself. Or at least that is how it appears. In actuality, he may very well be… an invisible man.”
“In Onward Pixar imagines a world where magic and fantasy have been supplanted by the mundane and suburban. But if you squint, there is still some of that old sorcery hidden between the cracks. It’s almost ironic then that the movie’s setup is also a perfect metaphor for its faults and virtues. For there is little of that precious Pixar magic here, but Onward can still summon the stuff where it counts—and when it does it turns an otherwise ho-hum animated family movie into something irresistible. Even better during its third act pyrotechnics, it just might feel human.”
The Way Back
“Ben Affleck has been such a major figure in tabloid culture for years now that a) the lines between his real life and his cinematic one have gradually gotten fuzzier and b) the ongoing turmoil in his personal life has made it easy to forget that with the right role, he can still be an extraordinary actor. In The Way Back, those two aspects of this talented man’s life intersect in a way that turns what could merely be a rote weepie into something much more affecting, anchored by Affleck’s powerful, raw performance.”
The Green Knight
David Lowery, the singular director behind A Ghost Story and The Old Man & the Gun, is helming a fantasy adaptation of the Arthurian legend of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. And his take on the material was apparently strong enough to entice A24 to produce it. Not much else is yet known about the film other than its cast, which includes Dev Patel, Alicia Vikander, Ralph Ineson, and Kate Dickie. So this is one we’re definitely going to keep an eye on.
In some ways it’s surprising that it’s taken this long—27 years, notwithstanding a couple of sequels—to remake the original Candyman. Director Bernard Rose’s original adaptation of the Clive Baker story, “The Forbidden” is still relevant and effective today. Back then, the film touched on urban legends, poverty, and segregation: themes that are still ripe for exploration through a genre touchstone today.
Jordan Peele (Us) is writing and producing while Nia DeCosta—fresh off her gritty feature debut, Little Woods—is behind the camera. That’s a powerful combination, and together with a cast headed by the original Candyman himself, Tony Todd, this is one “re-imagining” that may well live up to the original.
Pete Docter’s Inside Out may be the best animated film of the past decade—certainly in the Top Five—so the arrival of a new project from Pixar’s most thoughtful and existentially oriented director (and now its chief creative officer) is cause for celebration. Soul sounds just as heady as Inside Out: an aspiring jazz musician (voiced by Jamie Foxx) finally gets his big break, only to have his soul separated from his body by an accident and sent to the place where souls are recycled and transferred to newborn humans. After Inside Out, and Up before that, let’s see if Docter can hit this concept out of the park too.
King of Staten Island
Although the title above is not necessarily final, this is the first narrative film directed by Judd Apatow since 2015’s Trainwreck. Starring Saturday Night Live’s Pete Davidson and co-written by Davidson, Apatow, and Dave Sirus, the film is said to be inspired by events in the young comic’s life, from his upbringing on New York City’s least known borough to the death of his firefighter father on 9/11. Marisa Tomei, Steve Buscemi, and Bel Powley all co-star, although we wonder if Davidson’s various romantic partners—including Ariana Grande and Kate Beckinsale—will show up as themselves.
Top Gun: Maverick
It’s been 33 years since Tom Cruise first soared through the skies as hotshot pilot Pete “Maverick” Mitchell, and he’ll take to the air once more in a sequel that also features Val Kilmer, Jennifer Connelly, Miles Teller, Jon Hamm, and others. The flying and action sequences from director Joseph Kosinski (who worked with Cruise on Oblivion) will undoubtedly be first-rate, but the studio (Paramount) has to be nervous after seeing one nostalgia-based franchise after another (Blade Runner, Charlie’s Angels, Terminator, The Shining) crash and burn recently.
What would you do if you discovered that you were just a background character in an open world video game—and that the game was soon about to go offline? That’s the premise of this existential sci-fi comedy from director Shawn Levy, best known for the Night at the Museum series and as an executive producer and director on Stranger Things. Ryan Reynolds stars as Guy, a bank teller who discovers that his life is not what he thought it was, and in fact isn’t even real—or is it? We’ve seen a preview of footage, so we’d suggest think Truman Show if Truman was trapped in Grand Theft Auto.
No one knows what it’s about. No one knows what the title means. All we know is that this is a new “action thriller” from director Christopher Nolan (The Dark Knight), and that alone is enough to get us and audiences around the world excited. The film is allegedly set in the world of “international espionage” and could even feature a sci-fi element—something Nolan took a break from with his 2017 WWII drama Dunkirk—but this is all speculation for now.
The cast includes John David Washington (BlacKkKlansman), Elizabeth Debicki, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Michael Caine, Kenneth Branagh, and the red-hot Robert Pattinson, who called Nolan’s original script “unreal.” The filmmaker is shooting in IMAX and 70mm again with the hope of bringing audiences an experience that they can only have inside a theater, with all the scope that entails.
The French Dispatch
Wes Anderson has a new film coming out. Better still, it is another live-action film. While Anderson’s use of animation is singular, it’s been six years since The Grand Budapest Hotel, which we maintain is one of the best movies of this decade. Anderson is working with Timothée Chalamet and Cristoph Waltz for the first time with this film, as well as several familiar faces including Saoirse Ronan, Willem Dafoe, Tilda Swinton, Léa Seydoux, Adrien Brody, Owen Wilson, Jason Schwartzman, and, of course, Bill Murray.
The French Dispatch is set deep in the 20th century during the peak of modern journalism, it brings to life a series of fictional stories in a fictional magazine, published in a fictional French city. We suspect though, if Anderson’s last two live-action movies are any indication, it’ll have more than fiction on its mind–especially since it’s inspired by actual New Yorker stories, and the journalists who wrote them!
Disney dips into its theme park rides once again as a source for a movie, hoping that the Pirates of the Caribbean lightning will once more strike. This time it’s the famous Adventureland riverboat ride, which is free enough of a real narrative that one has to wonder why some five screenwriters (at least) worked on the movie’s script.
Director Jaume Collet-Serra (The Shallows) leads stars Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt down this particular river, as they battle wild animals and a competing expedition in their search for a tree with miraculous healing powers. The comic chemistry between Johnson and Blunt, and if it can really mimic Bogie and Hepburn in the similarly plotted The African Queen, is key here: if they can sell it, Disney might just have a new water-based franchise to replace their sinking Pirates ship.
This sci-fi yarn from director Antoine Fuqua (The Equalizer) stars Mark Wahlberg as a man experiencing what he thinks are hallucinations, but which turn out to be memories from past lives. He soon learns that there is a secret society of people just like him, except that they have total recall of their past identities and have acted to change the course of history throughout the centuries.
Based on the novel The Reincarnationist Papers by D. Eric Maikranz, this was originally a post-Marvel vehicle for Chris Evans. He dropped out, and the combination of Fuqua and Wahlberg hints at something more action-oriented than the rather cerebral premise suggests. The film also stars Sophie Cookson, Chiwetel Ejiofor, and Dylan O’Brien.
Wonder Woman 1984
Diana is finally returning to the big screen. While Wonder Woman made an appearance in 2017’s disappointing Justice League movie, Wonder Woman 1984 is the first film to reteam Gal Gadot and Patty Jenkins, so it’s the one to be excited for. A movie that Jenkins has designed from the ground up, including by working on the script, Wonder Woman 1984 is a cleaner look at her vision of the Amazon warrior who learned to fight for all mankind.
Suggesting nefarious, possibly Orwellian things with its 1984 setting, the movie somehow sees the quite dead Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) returning. Is everything as it appears? We doubt it. Wonder Woman 1984 introduces Kristen Wiig as Diana’s good friend, Barbara Minerva, a character with a villainous arc in the comics. The film also features the return of Connie Nielsen and Robin Wright, and the introduction of Pedro Pascal as Maxwell Lord.
Respect is the long-awaited biopic of the legendary Aretha Franklin, with the Queen of Soul herself involved in its development for years until her death in August 2018. Authorized biopics always make one wonder how accurate the film will be, but then again, Aretha had nothing to be ashamed of. Hers was a life well-lived, her voice almost beyond human comprehension, and the only thing now is to see whether star Jennifer Hudson (Franklin’s personal choice) and director Liesl Tommy (making her feature debut) can do the Queen justice.
Bill & Ted Face the Music
Keanu Fever has been at an all-time high lately, but if we’ve seen anything lately, it’s that the market for reviving 30-plus year old franchises at the box office is not exactly booming (hi there, Blade Runner, Charlie’s Angels, The Shining and Terminator!) But you can never count out the perpetually youthful Keanu Reeves, and the first two adventures starring him and Alex Winter as the ultimate time-traveling metalhead slackers still retain a cult following.
This time out, the boys are actually enjoying (for lack of a better word) middle age malaise when a visitor from the future tells them they need to write a new song to save the universe. Dean Parisot of Galaxy Quest fame directs, so at the very least expect a lot of cameos and plenty of sci-fi winks.
The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It
James Wan is already directing a new horror film this year so he’s stepping away from the directorial duties on the third film based on the paranormal investigations of Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga). That task has fallen to Michael Chaves (The Curse of La Llorona), so expect plenty of the same Wan Universe touches: heavy atmosphere, superb use of sound, and shocking, eerie visuals.
Details are scarce, but the plot—like the other two Conjuring films—is taken from the true-life case of a man who went on trial for murder and said as his defense that he was possessed by a demon when he committed his crimes. That’s all we know for now, except that, intriguingly, Mitchell Hoog and Megan Ashley Brown have been cast as younger versions of the Warrens.
The King’s Man
This might be a weird thing to say: but has World War I ever seemed so stylish? It is with Matthew Vaughn at the helm. An origin story of sorts for the organization that gave us Colin Firth and the umbrella, The King’s Man is a father and son yarn where Ralph Fiennes’ Duke of Oxford is reluctant about his son Conrad (Harris Dickinson) joining the war effort. But they’ll both be up to it as the Duke launches an intelligence gathering agency independent from any government. It also includes Gemma Arterton, Mathew Goode, and Aaron Taylor-Johnson as charter members.
Oh, and did we mention they fight Rasputin?
We suppose it was only a matter of time before author Tom Clancy’s Ryanverse—his media empire based around CIA agent Jack Ryan—expanded beyond the main character. With Ryan the star of numerous movies and currently portrayed by John Krasinski on an Amazon Prime TV show, Without Remorse will delve into the character of John Clark, a former Navy SEAL who has served as a more action-oriented right hand man to Ryan in many of his adventures while also leading his own.
Without Remorse is Clark’s origin story, chrarting his journey from ex-SEAL to CIA operative after his girlfriend is murdered by a drug lord. Played previously on the big screen by Willem Dafoe in Clear and Present Danger and Liev Schreiber in The Sum of All Fears, the role is taken here by Michael B. Jordan with the idea of launching a brand new franchise. Stefano Sollima (Sicario: Day of the Soldado) directs.
Last Night in Soho
Fresh off the success of 2017’s Baby Driver (his biggest commercial hit to date), iconoclastic British director Edgar Wright returns with what is described as a psychological and possibly time-bending horror thriller set in London. Whether this features Wright’s trademark self-aware humor remains to be seen, but since the film is said to be inspired by dread-inducing genre classics like Repulsion and Don’t Look Now, he might be going for a different effect this time.
The cast, of course, is outstanding: upstarts Anya Taylor-Joy (The Witch, Split) and Thomasin McKenzie (Leave No Trace, Jojo Rabbit) will face off with Matt Smith (Doctor Who) and British legends Diana Rigg and Terence Stamp. And the truth is we’re never going to miss one of Wright’s movies. Taylor-Joy talked to us here about finding her 1960s lounge singer voice for the film here.
The Many Saints of Newark
The idea of a prequel to anything always fills us with trepidation, and re-opening a nearly perfect property like The Sopranos makes the prospect even less appetizing. But Sopranos creator David Chase has apparently wanted to explore the back history of his iconic crime family for some time, and there certainly seems to be a rich tapestry of characters and events that have only been hinted at in the series.
Directed by series veteran Alan Taylor (Thor: The Dark World), The Many Saints of Newark stars Alessandro Nivola as Dickie Moltisanti (Christopher’s father), along with Jon Bernthal, Vera Farmiga, Corey Stoll, Ray Liotta and others. But the most fascinating casting is that of Michael Gandolfini—James’ son—as the younger version of the character with which his late dad made pop culture history. For that alone, we’ll be there on opening night.
Previously made into a cult classic 1990 film by Nicolas Roeg (Don’t Look Now), this novel by Roald Dahl (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) is one of the author’s darker works, and has even been accused of misogyny. The story follows a young boy who discovers the existence of a vast cabal of witches who hate children and want to turn them into mice—making them easier to kill.
Anne Hathaway stars as the Grand High Witch (played memorably in the 1990 version by Anjelica Huston) and is joined by Octavia Spencer, Stanley Tucci, and Chris Rock. Guillermo del Toro had a hand in the screenplay and is listed as one of the producers. The director is Robert Zemeckis, who has been less hit (Flight) and more miss (Allied, Welcome to Marwen) in recent years.
Death on the Nile
Murder on the Orient Express (2017) became a surprise hit for director and star Kenneth Branagh. Who knew that audiences would still be interested in an 83-year-old mystery novel about an eccentric Belgian detective with one hell of a moustache? Luckily, Agatha Christie featured Poirot in some 32 other novels, of which Death on the Nile is one of the most famous, so here we are.
Branagh once again directs and stars as Poirot, this time investigating a murder aboard a steamer sailing down Egypt’s famous river. The cast includes Gal Gadot, Armie Hammer, Letitia Wright, Tom Bateman, Ali Fazal, Annette Bening, Rose Leslie, and Russell Brand. Expect more lavish locales, scandalous revelations, the firing of a pistol or two, and, yes, more shots of that stunning Poirot facial hair.
2018’s outstanding reboot of the long-running horror franchise—with David Gordon Green (Stronger) directing and Jamie Lee Curtis returning to her most famous role—was a tremendous hit. So in classic Halloween fashion, two more sequels were put into production (the second, Halloween Ends, will be out in 2021).
Curtis is back as Laurie Strode, along with Judy Greer as her daughter, Andi Matichak as her granddaughter, and Nick Castle sharing Michael Myers duties with James Jude Courtney. Kyle Richards and Charles Cyphers, meanwhile, will reprise their roles as Lindsey Wallace and former sheriff Leigh Brackett from the original 1978 Halloween (Anthony Michael Hall will play the adult version of Tommy Doyle). The plot remains a mystery, but we’re pretty sure it will involve yet another confrontation between Laurie and a rampaging Myers.
While the idea of a Hasbro Movie Universe seems to be kind of idling at the moment, corners of that hypothetical cinematic empire remain active. One such brand is G.I. Joe, which will launch its first spin-off in this origin story of one of the team’s most popular characters. Much of his early background remains mysterious, so there’s room to create a fairly original story while incorporating lore and characters already established in the G.I. Joe mythos.
Neither of the previous G.I. Joe features (The Rise of Cobra and Retaliation) have been much good, so we can probably expect the same level of quality from this one. Director Robert Schwentke (the last two Divergent movies) doesn’t inspire much excitement either. On the other hand, Henry Golding (Crazy Rich Asians) will star in the title role, and having Iko Uwais (The Raid) and Samara Weaving (Ready or Not) on board isn’t too bad either.
Based on a Marvel Comics series by the legendary Jack Kirby, The Eternals centers around an ancient race of powerful beings who must protect the Earth against their destructive counterparts (and genetic cousins), the Deviants. Director Chloe Zhao (The Rider) takes her first swing at epic studio filmmaking, working with a cast that includes Angelina Jolie, Gemma Chan, Kit Harington, Salma Hayek, Richard Madden, Brian Tyree Henry, and others.
In many ways, The Eternals represents another huge creative risk for Marvel Studios: it’s a big, cosmic ensemble film introducing an ensemble that the vast majority of the public has never heard of. In that sense, it’s sort of in the same position as Guardians of the Galaxy was five years ago, and we know what happened there. But The Eternals’ even more obscure origins could prove a notable stress test for the MCU’s box office invincibility.
We’re using the title Stillwater for now although the word is that the name of the film may be changed. Matt Damon stars in this drama about an oil worker who travels from Oklahoma to France to help clear his estranged daughter of a murder she apparently didn’t commit. The trip brings the dad into the larger world around him as he struggles to overcome language and cultural barriers and find common ground with the people he meets.
The director and co-writer is Tom McCarthy, whose excellent Spotlight won Best Picture at the Oscars just three years ago, and whose other films include The Station Agent and The Visitor. This one seems poised for awards season attention as well, and don’t be surprised if it gets some.
Godzilla vs. Kong
Here we are, at last at the big punch up between Godzilla and King Kong. They both wear a crown, but in the film that Warner Bros. and Legendary Pictures have been building toward since 2014, only one can walk away with the title of the king of all the monsters.
Admittedly, not everyone loved the last American Godzilla movie, Godzilla: King of the Monsters, but we sure did. Still, Godzilla vs. Kong should be a different animal with Adam Wingard (You’re Next, The Guest) taking over directorial duties. It also has a stacked cast with some familiar faces (Kyle Chandler, Millie Bobby Brown, and Ziyi Zhang) and plenty of new ones (Alexander Skarsgård, Eiza González, Danai Gurira, Lance Reddick, and more). It’ll probably be better than the original, right?
After making her directorial debut with The Intervention in 2016, Clea DuVall is back behind the camera for Happiest Season, which will star Mackenzie Davis and Kristen Stewart. Co-written by DuVall as well, the story concerns a young woman who plans to propose to her girlfriend at the latter’s annual family holiday party, only to learn that she hasn’t come out to her conservative parents yet.
This is DuVall’s first studio film (TriStar) and while we know little of it, the wrapping of the traditional rom-com template around a same-sex couple should prove both bracing and discussion-worthy.
No Time to Die
Nothing lasts forever, and the Daniel Craig era of James Bond is coming to an end… eventually. In fact, it’s a bit of a surprise it’s getting an official swan song with this movie after Craig said he’d rather “slash his wrists” before doing another one. Well, we’re glad he didn’t, just as we’re hopeful for his final installment in the tuxedo.
Director Cary Joji Fukunaga is a newcomer to the franchise, but that might be a good thing after how tired Spectre felt, and Fukunaga has done sterling work in the past on True Detective and Maniac. He also looks to bring the curtain down on the whole Craig oeuvre by picking up on the last movie’s lingering threads, such as 007 driving off into the sunset with Léa Seydoux’s Madeleine Swann, while introducing new ones that include Rami Malek as new Bond villain Safin and Ana de Armas as new Bond girl Paloma. Yay for the Knives Out reunion!
Raya and the Last of the Dragon
Longtime Walt Disney Animation Studios head of story, Paul Briggs (Frozen), will make his directorial debut on this original Disney animated fantasy, which draws upon Eastern traditions to tell the story of a young warrior who goes searching for the world’s last dragon in the mysterious land of Kumandra. Cassie Steele will voice Raya while Awkwafina (The Farewell) will portray Sisu the dragon. Disney Animation has been nearly invincible in recent years with other hits like Moana and Zootopia, so watch for this one to be another major hit for the Mouse.
Could third time be the charm for Frank Herbert’s complex novel of the far future, long acknowledged as one of the greatest—if most difficult to read—milestones in all of science fiction? David Lynch’s 1984 version was, to be charitable, an honorable mess, while the 2000 Sci-Fi Channel miniseries was decent and faithful, but limited in scope. Now director Denis Villeneuve (Blade Runner 2049, Arrival) is pulling out all the stops—even breaking the story into two movies to give the proper space.
On the surface, the plot is simple: as galactic powers vie for control of the only planet that produces a substance capable of allowing interstellar flight, a young messiah emerges to lead that planet’s people to freedom. But this tale is dense with multiple layers of politics, metaphysics, mysticism and hard science. Villeneuve has assembled a jaw-dropping cast, including Timothée Chalamet, Rebecca Ferguson, Oscar Isaac, Josh Brolin, Stellan Skarsgård, Dave Bautista, Zendaya, Charlotte Rampling, Jason Momoa, and Javier Bardem, and if he pulls this off, just hand him every sci-fi novel ever written.
West Side Story
Steven Spielberg has just two remakes on his directorial resume: Always (1989) and War of the Worlds (2005). While the former is mostly forgotten and the latter was an adaptation of a story that has been filmed many times, his upcoming reimagining of West Side Story will undoubtedly be directly compared to Robert Wise’s iconic 1961 screen version of this classic musical.
A few numbers in previous films aside, Spielberg has never directed a full-blown musical before, let alone one associated with such powerhouse songs and dance numbers. His version, with a script by Tony Kushner, is said to stay closer to the original Broadway show than the 1961 film—but with its themes of love struggling to cross divides created by hate and bigotry, don’t be surprised if it’s just as hard-hitting in 2020.
Coming 2 America
The notion of whether nostalgia-based properties are still viable has cropped up repeatedly as we look at 2020’s upcoming slate of films. This sequel—based on a 31-year-old comedy that was one of Eddie Murphy’s most financially successful hits—falls right into that same bucket. Will audiences still remember and, more importantly, will they care?
Murphy is back as Prince Akeem, of course, with Arsenio Hall returning as his loyal friend Semmi. The plot revolves around Akeem’s discovery, just as he is about to be crowned king, that he has a long-lost son living in the States (we’re not sure how that happened, but let’s just go with it). That, of course, necessitates another visit to our shores—that is, if Akeem and Semmi presumably don’t get stopped at the border. The film reunites Murphy with Dolemite is My Name director Craig Brewer, so perhaps they can make some cutting-edge social comedy out of this?
A Quiet Place 2
The sequel to one of 2018’s biggest surprises, A Quiet Place Part II comes with major expectations. And few may hold it to a higher standard than writer-director John Krasinski. Despite (spoiler) the death of his character in the first film, Krasinski returns behind the camera for the sequel after saying he wouldn’t. The story he came up with apparently was too good to pass up.
The film again stars Emily Blunt as the often silenced mother of a vulnerable family, which includes son Marcus (Noah Jupe) and deaf daughter Regan (Millicent Simmonds). However, now that they know how to kill the eagle-eared alien monsters who’ve taken over their planet, the cast has grown to include Cillian Murphy and Djimon Hounsou. While the film has been delayed due to the coronavirus outbreak, trust us that it’ll be worth the wait. it finally time for… resistance?
Another victim of the coronvairus delays, Mulan is Disney’s big budget and apparently heavily reimagined adaptation of its 1998 animated movie. While those still hit by a wave of nostalgia when they hear “let’s get down to business” might be disappointed to learn this remake isn’t a musical, it could be a blessing in disguise.
The musical elements were removed to have greater appeal to Chinese audiences (who are not a fan of the genre), but it also forces Disney to rethink the property and consider how to make it work without relying on nostalgia—something that we’d personally argue has doomed all the other Disney Renaissance live-action remakes. In that vein, Niki Caro (Whale Rider) has been tapped as director for a movie that will apparently hew closer to the Chinese legend of Mulan. The movie also includes the impressive cast of Li Gong, Jet Li, Donnie Yen, and Yifei Liu as Mulan.
The New Mutants
This poor movie! We know The New Mutants has been delayed two years. We know it’s been on two previous must-see previews. And we know it probably has problems… but after such a delay, aren’t you just a little bit curious? And, really, it’s a movie that might be suffering from problems not of its own making. Its belated 2020 release date is in large part due to the film being a victim of the Disney-Fox merger that sucked up all the oxygen and production power at its studio for 2018 and 2019. Then when it finally looked like it was coming out in April 2020… coronavirus pandemic. We feel almost obligated to see this film for the sake of the filmmakers who are being ever delayed by events beyond their control.
Plus, in all seriousness, making a mutant and superhero-based horror movie always seemed like a strong idea. And Josh Boone assembled a hell of a cast led by Maisie Williams and Anya Taylor-Joy. So even if there is something more sinister than superpowers hidden in its running time… we can’t resist giving it a watch. Can you?
Dramatic director Scott Cooper (Crazy Heart, Hostiles) is doing a horror movie. As we live and breathe. And he’s doing it with a huge boost of confidence from Guillermo del Toro, who has opted to produce the movie. Antlers is the tale of two adult brothers, one a teacher and the other a sheriff, getting wrapped up in a supernatural quagmire that involves a young student and a “dangerous secret.” And with a cast that includes Jesse Plemons, Keri Russell, and Graham Greene, we are very intrigued… even if we must wait once again due to a coronavirus delay.
Some would charitably say it arrives a decade late, but Black Widow is finally getting her own movie. (And we hope it’s still coming out in 2020!) This is fairly remarkable considering she became street pizza in Avengers: Endgame, but this movie fits snugly between the events of Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War. It also promises to be the most pared down Marvel Studios movie since 2014’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and that’s a good thing.
In the film, Scarlett Johansson’s Natasha Romanoff is on the run after burning her bridges with the U.S. government and UN. This brings her back to the spy games she thought she’d escaped from her youth, and back in the orbit of her “sister” Yelena (Florence Pugh). Old wounds are ripped open, old Soviet foes, including David Harbour as the Red Guardian and Rachel Weisz as Nat and Yelena’s girlhood instructor, are revealed, and many a fight sequence with minimal CGI will be executed. How’s that for a real start to Phase 4? Of course that’s still assuming this comes out before The Eternals after it was delayed, again, due to the coronavirus pandemic.
In the Heights
Lin-Manuel Miranda’s first hit Broadway musical gets the big screen treatment from director Jon M. Chu (Crazy Rich Asians). Set in Washington Heights over the course of a three-day heat wave, the plot and ensemble cast carry echoes of both Rent and Do the Right Thing. While a success on the stage—if not quite the cultural phenomenon that Miranda’s next show, Hamilton—it remains to be seen whether In the Heights can strike a chord with moviegoing audiences.
Promising Young Woman
Another horror movie with a real, ahem, promising edge is Emerald Fennell’s directorial debut, Promising Young Woman. Starring Carrie Mulligan as Cassandra Thomas, the film has a hell of timely (and sadly timeless?) setup: after being abused and traumatized in her youth, Cassandra spends her nights now going out and feigning drunken stupors at nightclubs. And sure enough, each night a self-described “nice guy” takes her home to do not-so-nice things. The catch? She’s not inebriated and she’s mad as hell.
How far Cassandra will go to wreak karmic justice on these men remains to be seen, but it is one of the indie darlings out of Sundance that we keep hearing great things about. Also produced by Margot Robbie’s LuckyChap production company, this is in keeping with another star’s desire to see female stories told by female filmmakers.
If God exists then so must The Devil in Rose Glass’ stunning debut Saint Maud which sees a pious young nurse who experiences beatific visions become obsessed with saving the soul of her dying patient Amanda (Jennifer Ehle). Saint Maud is a strange, gorgeous, and deeply disturbing chiller which mixes psychological, religious, and body horror to form something that feels utterly original. Very definitely a genre movie, this is “elevated” horror that messes with your perceptions of what’s real and what isn’t and comes with an ending that’s so simultaneously euphoric and horrific it feels like a punch in the heart.
How many time travel movies have you seen where someone is sent to the past and they discover that’s where they belong? It’s an appealing premise that has worked for everyone from Mark Twain to Owen Wilson in Midnight in Paris. But what if the past isn’t such a great place to be? What if the main character isn’t white? Such is the horrifyingly brilliant premise at the heart of Antebellum, a movie about a successful author (Janelle Monáe) who finds the past inexplicably blending with the 21st century present. And when we say past, we mean the Antebellum South during the Civil War.
If she can’t figure out how to stop it, soon she will be trapped in a world of bondage and legally sanctioned evil. Scared yet?
Spiral: From the Book of Saw
Chris Rock has co-written the story for a new take on the Saw franchise. Never thought we’d write those words! The fact that it also stars Rock, as well as Samuel L. Jackson, is likewise head-turning. It looks like they’re going for legitimate horror with Darren Lynn Bousman attached to direct after helming three of the Saw sequels. Hopefully this will be better than most of the franchise that came before, and given the heavily David Fincher-influenced tone of the first trailer, we’re willing to cross our fingers and play this game.
The Personal History of David Copperfield
Writer-director Armando Iannucci has cast Dev Patel as Charles Dickens’ beloved Victorian hero in this new adaptation that emphasizes Dickens’ humor with fresh eyes. The Personal History of David Copperfield has had a warm reception at film festivals and Fox Searchlight has confidently scheduled it for a summer release. Then again when the cast also includes Peter Capaldi, Hugh Laurie, Tilda Swinton, and Ben Whishaw, there’s plenty to be bullish about.
What’s that? A new horror movie from James Wan? The director and writer behind such modern horror classics as Saw, Insidious, and The Conjuring returns to his roots after going the blockbuster route for a few years. The film is based on a 2012 graphic novel that Wan conceived and co-wrote about a cancer patient who discovers that his tumor is actually a mysterious parasite—one that gives him powers to see behind the curtain of reality.
We haven’t read the book, but this sounds like it could hit the sweet spot between sci-fi and horror, which is something Wan hasn’t quite explored before. All we know is that he continues to be one of the genre’s top practitioners, and we look forward to whatever he’s got up his sleeve this time.
The Woman in the Window
A project originally intended for a 2019 release, the delay of Fox’s The Woman in the Window is disquieting. But the talent (including Amy Adams, Gary Oldman, Julianne Moore, Anthony Mackie, and Brian Tyree Henry), and prime summer real estate of its release date, are not. Directed by the often razor tight Joe Wright, who is working from a screenplay by the grisly and nihilistic Tracy Letts, Woman in the Window riffs on Hitchcock with its premise of an agoraphobic woman living in New York City and spying on her neighbors—witnessing a disturbing act of violence in the process.
Obviously owing a great debt to Rear Window, we imagine there is more than meets the eye with this setup.
Andrew Dominik is one of the most underrated filmmakers of this century. The helmer behind Chopper, Killing Them Softly, and what some of us would argue is the best Western made in the 21st century, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, he returns to the crossroads of American celebrity and historical fiction. An adaptation of the Joyce Carol Oates novel of the same name, this offers an artful reimagining of Marilyn Monroe’s life, attempting to place viewers into the mind of the 20th century’s most iconic sex symbol and movie star.
Donning those famed platinum blonde locks is Ana de Armas, which in itself is an intriguing choice given de Armas’ often pronounced Cuban accent. Yet Dominik and producer Brad Pitt are convinced she is the one–and arguably first–actor able to convincingly recreate Norma Jeane. And given de Armas’ recent breakout success in Knives Out, we’re willing to give her the chance. The film also stars Bobby Cannavale as Joe Dimaggio and Adrien Brody as Arthur Miller. It will debut on Netflix.
Another Netflix production that is an absolute must see is David Fincher’s first feature film since Gone Girl way back in 2014. A story he always wanted to tell, this movie revisits the heart of the golden age of Hollywood and the tumultuous struggle between legendary screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz and Orson Welles. Their friction would result in a paradigm-shifting masterpiece, Citizen Kane (1941), but the horror that went into making it might not have been worth it for some.
Gary Oldman will play the famed scribe, whose career spanned from 1920s reporter to author of several of Hollywood’s greatest films, including Kane as well as The Wizard of Oz (1939) and The Pride of the Yankees (1942). This has every reason to be something truly special, particularly if Fincher has been thinking about it since 1997…
Da 5 Bloods
Fresh off his Oscar winning BlacKkKlansman, Spike Lee returns to the past again for a story that is sure to have relevance for today. Da 5 Bloods is set during the Vietnam War with four veterans coming home to a cold welcome. They also apparently left more than just their innocence in the jungles of Southeast Asia. After their squad leader falls, so did his promise of buried treasure. So the search is on for that leader’s remains and the absolution they hope it will bring. The film stars Chadwick Boseman, Giancarlo Esposito, Isiah Whitlock Jr., Jonathan Majors, Clark Peters, Norm Lewis, and Jean Reno.
Those Who Wish Me Dead
Taylor Sheridan is among the best writers in moviemaking right now. Having all but cornered the niche around modern Westerns, he’s responsible for the scripts for Hell or High Water, both Sicarios, and Wind River, the latter of which he also directed. He’s back in the director’s chair again for Those Who Wish Me Dead, which has been described as a “female-driven neo-Western” set in the Montana wilderness. It is there a teenager witnesses a murder, and he finds himself on the run from twin assassins, and in need of protection from a likely paranoid survivalist. The film stars Angelina Jolie, Jon Bernthal, Nicholas Hoult, Tyler Perry, Aidan Gillen, Jake Weber, and Finn Little.
On the Rocks
For the first time in more than 15 years, Sofia Coppola is reteaming with Bill Murray for a narrative film (while we all politely pretend their Christmas special never happened). Given their last serious collaboration was the classic Lost in Translation, On the Rocks has an instant curiosity factor. And like that film, one may wonder if there is any autobiography in this film about a young mother, wishing to be a better parent than what she experienced growing up, attempting to reconnect with her larger-than-life playboy father. What follows is a story set in a single day in New York City. The film stars Rashida Jones as the other half of its two-hander, and also features performances from Marlon Wayans, Jenny Slate, and Jessica Henwick.
Oh… and it’s on Apple TV+. There’s a first!
Tom Hanks is once again starring in a World War II drama. And he’s doing so while being a ship’s skipper. Given his success in the past as both a World War II captain in Saving Private Ryan (1998) and as a maritime captain in Captain Phillips (2013), the combination of these subject matters is instantly appealing. A passion project for Hanks—so much so he wrote the screenplay—Greyhound adapts the C.S. Forester novel about a Merchant Marine during the Second World War who must maintain his seafaring mission, even as he is being stalked by Nazi U-Boat wolf packs.
The Humans is another A24 release with an interesting pedigree. Written and directed by Stephen Karem, who is adapting his one-act play of the same name, this is a film about a family drama erupting during Thanksgiving dinner. Sure, that might sound like millions of Americans’ Thanksgiving every year, but when this one is populated by characters played by Richard Jenkins, Amy Schumer, Beanie Feldstein, Steven Yeun, and more, we’re quite intrigued.
Netflix is producing a remake of Alfred Hitchcock and David O. Selznick’s Rebecca. Bold? Most definitely. Yet since it is Ben Wheatley (A Field in England, Free Fire) who thinks he can take up the challenge, we’re at least willing to see why he thinks this classic Gothic romance/thriller needs an update. Like the original film, it adapts Daphne Du Maurier’s novel of intrigue, secrets, and destructive lusts (presumably this will be closer to the book too). The film stars Lily James as the newly married Mrs. de Winter and Armie Hammer as the groom, Maxim de Winter. Kristin Scott Thomas plays the pivotal role of de Winter housekeeper/sadist, Mrs. Danvers.
Scooby-Doo movies are a tricky proposition. On the one hand, who under the age of 60 didn’t grow up at some point loving the original cartoon from 1969? And then on the other, there’s a series of direct-to-video cheapies and the garish live-action movies from the early 2000s. Scoob, however, looks to err closer to the classic approach. With a focus on nailing the personalities of the five main characters with warmth instead of self-aware hipness, Scoob could be a loving dose of nostalgia. WB Animation has experience in that department, having produced the still well regarded Lego Movie. So fingers crossed?